Stratford Oaks Tales
is a series about the good life for the animals at
Stratford Oaks Farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

"When I saw the work that Zach was producing, I asked him to come to the farm and draw...through his eyes...the fields, barn area and animals. It is my joy to tell you that as you read these stories, you will see the wonderful world of Stratford Oaks Farm
through the eyes of Zach."

Dr. Suzanne Mellow-Irwin


The Tale of Gretchen Recognized by NC Society of Historians


Saturday, October 20th, we traveled to Mooresville, NC, for the annual awards banquet of the North Carolina Society of Historians, where Suzanne and Zach won awards for the first in the Stratford Oaks Tales series, The Tale of Gretchen. Zach received a Paul Green Multimedia Award for his artwork and Suzanne a Clark Cox Historical Fiction Award for the story. We were honored to receive these awards from the North Carolina Society of Historians.


Judges' Collective Comments for Zach's art:Multimedia Award

"Zach Hamm has definitely captured the essence of the story in this book through his wonderful illustrations. Fashioned in a childlike style, they are appealing to both children and adults; however each frame is masterfully etched. The expressions on people's faces depict feelings within the text; and, recurring characters and Gretchen can easily be identified on every page they appear on due to their consistently drawn features. It takes a great deal of talent to do this but the artist has made it look easy. An absolutely incredible job!"


Historical Fiction AwardJudges' Collective Comments for Suzanne's story:

"This is a charming story that will delight children of all ages. It combines simple descriptions of farm life and the animals on that farm, and what happens when one of those animals gets hurt and needs medical attention. It deals with human emotions that children can easily identify with; and through some delightful, childlike visuals, it keeps their attention, draws them in and makes them feel quite 'at home and cozy.' They will end up cheering for Gretchen who will teach them determination, perseverance and bravery.

"This story is ageless and it would have appealed to the children living in the 19th century also. It is a friendly and warm portrait of the people who lived on Stratford Oaks Farm and the area in which it is situated. It is also wonderfully written and produced. We look forward to reading more books by this author as future issues are created in this series."


Release Party for The Tale of Clyde


The Tale of Clyde is available now! Monday, October 22, Suzanne and Zach will be at The Sparta Store (at 3 North Main Street in downtown Sparta) to sign the latest in the Stratford Oaks series. Come see the new book and hear a few special announcements, as well. The event will start at 3 and last till 6. We look forward to seeing you!


See the Mountain Topics Interview with Suzanne, Zach, and Gretchen

(originally aired on Alleghany Community Television)




Dr. Irwin

... the Project


Stratford Oaks Tales is a literary adventure that took shape when the little pygmy goat, Gretchen, was injured. Seeing her struggle to survive a terrible injury, I was inspired to tell her story. It was a natural flow to include other stories about our farm animals that live at Stratford Oaks farm.







Zach Hamm

... the Illustrator

Zach Hamm


Although diagnosed with Autism at age 4, Zach lives a much fulfilled life. His life is truly a role model for all to see. When asked, "Why are you so happy?" His soft spoken voice is quick to reply, "Because I choose to be." Zach has taken the challenge of Autism and showed us that you can overcome obstacles in your life. Zach uses all that God has given him. Through Zach's life many doors have been opened for others to have success. Though quiet in nature, Zach speaks to every heart he meets. The peace that surrounds him comes from above. God has a special place for everyone in this life. Even when challenges are so hard...You still have great purpose.


Submitted by: Zach's Mom, Donna Hamm


Dr. Irwin

... the Author

Dr. Suzanne Mellow-Irwin

Through a career in education bridging elementary classes to the university level, Dr. Suzanne Mellow-Irwin has served in various positions: classroom teacher, curriculum supervisor, superintendent of schools and university professor.

Educated at Trinity College in Washington, D.C., she holds a doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She presently lives at Stratford Oaks Farm in Sparta, North Carolina, where the art of storytelling has endeared her to "children" of all ages.










Fun day at the farm with grandchildren and Gretchen
Fun day at the farm with grandchildren & Gretchen
Fun day at the farm with grandchildren and Gretchen


Purchasing Information

Stratford Oaks Tales, The Tales of Gretchen and Clyde

Buy Now

Books available at The Sparta Store.

Order yours now!

The Tale of Gretchen - $17

The Tale of Clyde - $17
(prices include tax)

A percentage of each sale will go to the Exceptional Children's Program of the Alleghany County School System.


Contact Us

Stratford Oaks Tales
307 Irwin Valley Rd.,
Sparta, NC 28675



Alleghany County Schools

Reich College of Education at Appalachian State University

Autism Society of America

Autism Society of North Carolina

Delta Kappa Gamma

High Meadows Golf Club

Humane Society of Alleghany County

Wilkes Community College



© 2011 Stratford Oaks Tales. Site by Imaging Specialists, Inc. Sparta, NC.